Friday, July 29, 2011

I Let My Kid Walk to Walmart

The past few months, Tim and I have been letting Patrick, our oldest walk to more places in our neighborhood. He's almost eleven and we both remember being his age and being allowed to ride our bikes miles from our houses without our parents freaking out.

Yesterday Patrick asked one of his friends, who is two years older than him, if he could walk to Walmart with him. Our Walmart is literally three suburban blocks away. There are no big streets to cross. His friend isn't allowed to walk there and the feeling that I got was that his parents feel like its a safety issue.

I got a mixed response from friends, most of them falling into the "Oh my God! That's not safe!" category.

For as much as I searched, I wasn't able to find record of a single child kidnapping locally. All of the news stories about kidnappings here are about non-custodial parents taking their children and men kidnapping adult women.

NeighborhoodScout has this to say about Cicero:

"Importantly, our analysis shows that Cicero has one of the lowest violent crime rates in all of America, across cities and towns of all sizes. Murder, forcible rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault happen far less frequently here than in most places. Your chance of becoming a victim? Just one in 10,000. Cicero's violent crime rate is just 0 per 1,000 residents."
- From NeighborhoodScout

Conversely, it seems that Patrick would have been in more danger if I had chosen to drive him the three blocks to Walmart, as our chances of being in a serious or fatal automobile accident far exceed the risks of a "stranger" doing him harm. Googling "Syracuse NY car crash," I was able to find more stories of people who were killed in car crashes than I was stories of non-custodial kidnappings (virtually non-existant in our area). The kidnapping is more sensational and scary, but the car accident is more likely and it doesn't keep us from driving almost every day.

I'd like to suggest the writings of a man named Gavin DeBecker. He is "our Nation's best-known expert on the prediction and management of violence." What he says runs contrary to the fear-based things that we tell our children, like the ridiculous saying "Don't talk to strangers." He provides practical, evidence-based teachings about reducing risk and making our families as safe as we can without becoming agoraphobic. His book Protecting the Gift is one that I recommend all parents read.

So yeah, I let my kid walk to Walmart. I felt comfortable letting him go and it meant not having to load up all of the kids to go buy toilet paper. Judge away.

1 comment:

  1. At almost-11, I think that's perfectly fine! When I was that age, I went all over town by myself (and had been for years). Granted, "town" mostly meant going down the hill to Bayberry Plaza to get snacks with a pack of neighborhood kids at Tri-R Drugs, or once in awhile waaay across Rt 57 (then and now, a busy road) to Seneca Mall... As long as he tells you he's going somewhere, and has a general route in mind and shares that plan, too, what's the problem? Boogey-men hiding in the bushes? How else do kids figure out how to live as independent individuals other than being trusted to do things on their own?